I am lying on the floor of the sanctuary at The Church in Ocean Park. I’ve chosen this spot to the right of the altar, near an open door behind the baby grand, so my body can delight in the fresh ocean air. It’s around 10:00 Saturday morning. No service; Medicine Dance.
My eyes are closed. Fred, our facilitator, is speaking, “Feel your body… feel inside your body.”
I try to place all of my attention on sensations, but I can’t seem to divorce myself from the Is-Anyone-Watching-and-Judging-Me channel. “Do I look too sexy… am I moving enough, too much… am I too old… should I have shaved my calves…?” The tide rolls in. After decades of bodymindfulness practices, will I ever fully unplug? Is it possible? At least I am aware.
I open my eyes and take a glance. All weight is on my right side. Both feet, bare and about a foot and a half apart, rest gently against a piano leg. My thin, loose, olive-green Thai pants have fallen up my left leg a bit, and the sunlight from the open door is just enough to show through the fabric, displaying an elegant silhouette of upper calf, knee and lower thigh. If the image were to be used for an ad, it would be an ad for material, for the way the gentle folds of cotton voile can both mirror and reveal the soft curves of a woman’s leg. I witness my concerns about appearing inappropriate dissolve back into the cultural over-sexualization from which they’d come.
Listening to the birds outside, I play with the fabric for a minute, like a child, then close my eyes again and slowly rotate my head on the cool floor. I hear a crisp “plink” as the small gold floating heart I’ve had since I was a teenager slips around its snake chain and onto the hard wood beneath me.
“Movement is born of contraction and release,” Fred says. Does he know I am thinking of mothers? Of my mother?
I run my right hand over the inside of my left forearm, gently brushing the freckles. It is a child’s touch. The skin is soft, thin, loving. A mother’s skin. The freckles come from my mother. My whole body came from her. And her body from her mother’s, and on and on and on.
The space between Fred’s words fills with the soft sweet sound of a woman chanting. I think about the night before my birthday and the powerful compliment I received from my junior-high-school best friend, Stephanie. She’d taken me to dinner at Anarbagh. Before we ordered she said, “You are the only woman I know who’s grown into a woman with no guidance at all. I find this fascinating.”
I asked her to say it again, then went to the ladies’ room to be alone and let the words sink in. She’s known my whole family for four decades. She is also a mother. Her words matter.
As we hugged good-bye, she said it again, differently: “You are my wildflower.”
I thought she was calling me a hippie. It wouldn’t be the first time. But she went on, “Wildflowers grow without tending. They are the women who keep the world together.”
Then she looked at me in a way only a woman’s oldest and dearest friend can. “Whatever role your mother played in you becoming who you are, thank God for her.”
I understood. For the first time, I fully understood.
The words “mother,” “material” and “matter” share the same root: “mater.” This is no accident. Mothers provide the material for our spirits to romp around in. I’ve often joked with people who are angry with their mothers, “Before chewing out your mom, maybe thank her for your ability to do so.”
The understanding Steph inspired was slightly different. She honored my mother, who provided three meals a day and clean clothes. She also knew I’d raised myself and honored me for it.
I woke up the next day wanting only one thing: to see my mom and celebrate my life and her role in it. I was so excited! But when I called, she said I couldn’t come over. For years, maybe decades, I feared my mother would die. She would die and it would be my fault. Cause of death: “Too few visits from younger daughter.”
I’ve known people who take time off from family, sometimes detaching forever, even from their moms. But I couldn’t imagine that. I never even allowed myself space without guilt—until my birthday.
“I have a drivers’ test tomorrow,” she said. “I have to study.”
After only a wee little tantrum (where I school my mother on her priorities), I hung up the phone and crid—for about a minute. Then, I laughed. This is how I was raised. This is how I became Steph’s wildflower.
The rest of the day is gorgeous. I work on my book. My son visits. We play with the dog, catch up on each other’s lives and lay on the porch making a “soundweave” together. My daughter calls and invites me to record a song with her, and a neighbor surprises me with dinner at Canyon Bistro. I go to sleep happy and grateful for being alive. Before I nod off, I think of my mom, a woman who married, had two kids and lost her own mother all before the age of twenty. I wonder if anyone ever called either of them a wildflower.
The egg that became me was in my mom’s ovary while she was still in her mom’s belly, and my son’s and daughter’s eggs were in me while I was still in my mom. We can probably all use a little space.
People say that mothering is the hardest job in the world. I disagree. Mothering is not hard at all. It’s impossible. And, we do it all the time. Thank God for mothers, for getting us here and providing material to work with.
Sage Knight is a mother, daughter, sister and wildflower. She and her Golden Retriever companion, Shiloh, grow in the sunshine at Top o’ Topanga and welcome your visits to www.SageKnight.com.